News: AAAS News & Notes
27 August 2004
Science and Policy
AAAS R&D Report Sees Sharp Rise for U.S. Security Spending
Confronted by continuing global instability and record federal deficits, the U.S. Congress is moving toward a 2005 budget that would sharply raise research and development spending for security initiatives while holding it steady or cutting it in most other areas.
Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program, reported this month that the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush already have approved a 7.1% increase for research and development in the Department of Defense (DOD), raising the appropriation $4.7 billion to a record $70.3 billion. The House of Representatives would raise R&D spending for the Department of Homeland Security by 19.3%, while the Senate would increase the investment by 17.2%.
But in an interview, Koizumi said that areas such as energy, climate, transportation, space exploration, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are facing cuts. The House R&D budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would rise 2.6%, but a significant portion of that is made up by an increase in biodefense research. Excluding NIH, funding for all nondefense research and development would decline 2.1% under the House plans.
"Clearly, the big winners are defense and homeland security," Koizumi said of the budget process so far. "Within defense, the big priorities are missile defense and development and engineering work for some weapons systems that are in the pipeline. But Congress also did find money to boost Department of Defense support of research."
The R&D Budget and Policy Program has emerged as an authoritative source of budget information over the last 30 years, and today, Koizumi's reports are watched closely on Capitol Hill and frequently cited in news reports. "I always say his analyses are essentially the gold standard for science budgeting," said Bob Palmer, minority staff director for the House Science Committee. The analyses on R&D appropriations are updated regularly on AAAS's Web site at www.aaas.org/spp/rd/.
Before Congress recessed in July, the House had approved 10 out of a total 13 appropriations bills for the budget year beginning 1 October, but had taken no vote on bills involving NIH, NASA, NSF, and other big R&D agencies. The Senate had completed action only on the DOD appropriation bill.
The big winner within DOD is the agency that oversees the controversial missile defense system; its development budget will rise 16% to $8.8 billion. At the Department of Homeland Security, both the Senate and House would increase funding for shipping container security, air cargo security, and biowarfare countermeasures, among other projects.
But because Congress has set strict budget guidelines for 2005, Koizumi said, the Senate will have limited flexibility to modify the House R&D plans.
"While the Senate total for R&D spending could be higher than that approved by the House, there's just no room to make it very different," he said. "So the Senate could give an increase to NSF, for example but in order to do that, they're going to have to find cuts somewhere else. And that makes the Senate's job very difficult."
Indeed, the budget decisions carry such political risk that Congress may wait until after the November elections to complete its work on the budget, Koizumi said.
If something close to the House budget prevails, President Bush's high-profile plans to put astronauts back on the moon and for the first time on Mars would be effectively frozen. And it is likely to mean fewer successful grant applications and a slowdown in some projects at agencies like NSF and NIH.
NIH, between 1998 and 2003, had been getting 15% more every year as part of a policy to double its budget; while the 2.6% House proposal for 2005 is in line with increases granted in the mid-1990s, it would be more than offset by the projected 3.5% inflation rate in the cost of doing biomedical research. Koizumi said some biomedical interests had pushed for a 9 to 10% increase in 2005 "to maintain the momentum of discovery."
New AAAS Center to Advance Careers in Science
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded AAAS a 3-year, $400,000 grant to establish a new center that will provide consulting services to universities and colleges seeking to increase the participation of U.S. students, especially women and underrepresented minorities, in science and engineering.
Daryl Chubin, a national expert on expanding and diversifying the science and engineering workforce, has joined AAAS as the director of the new Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity. Chubin has served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and has published eight books and numerous policy reports, articles, and commentaries.
"By pulling together what we now know and setting a research agenda for the future, this center will surely help multiply the impact of the many efforts going on around the country to increase participation in science by members of underrepresented groups," said Alan I. Leshner, AAAS's chief executive officer and executive publisher of the journal Science.
Chubin "sees the big picture, and he knows the research base," added Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. "He understands the practical constraints that are inevitable as institutions try to prepare all students to live, work, and compete in a global and diverse workforce."
AAAS has taken a leadership role in recent years in identifying and shaping efforts to improve education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to recruit more students into those fields. In July, for instance, a day long AAAS conference in Washington, DC, looked at the lessons major universities might learn from some nontraditional schools that have excelled at training women, minorities, and others for careers in information technology.
The need for the new Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity can be traced to a shift in American culture described by AAAS President Shirley Ann Jackson in "The Quiet Crisis," a 2002 report for Building Engineering & Science Talent (BEST). While science and technology are increasingly critical to economic growth and innovation, student interest in the fields has not kept pace, wrote Jackson, a physicist and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Data show that through the high-tech and medical research boom of the past 30 years, college enrollments in science and engineering have only held steady. In the past 15 years, for example, the proportion of women in computer sciences has declined.
Researchers have found that if minorities and women participated in the science and engineering workforce in numbers proportionate to their presence in the population, the workforce would be more diverse in composition and robust in talent for decades to come. But while many initiatives are under way, Chubin said, schools sometimes struggle with diversity. The picture was complicated by U.S. Supreme Court decisions last year which narrowed the range of tools that public universities can use.
"Universities need help fulfilling their commitment to a supportive environment for their core constituencystudents," Chubin said in a recent interview. "The Center offers faculty and administrators the tools for becoming culturally competent'welcoming and sustaining a diverse student body in STEM fields. Through technical assistance to programs, the Center can enhance what already works, retool what may be flagging, illuminate what is obscure, and scale up what is exemplary."
Drawing on expertise at AAAS and in the private sector, the Center will send small teams of consultants to individual schools to review and refine their programs in teaching and learning.
That model persuaded the Sloan Foundation to make the grant, with the belief that the Center can be self-supporting after 3 years. "We're convinced that the colleges and universities need the services in question," said Ted Greenwood, the project director who oversees Sloan's programs for women and minorities in science and engineering. "And we felt that AAAS had assembled a terrific team that has the skill to do this work."
Chubin comes to AAAS from the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, where he had served since 2001 as senior vice president for research, policy and programs. Before that, he had spent nearly 15 years in federal service, the last 3 as senior policy officer for the National Science Board at the National Science Foundation. In 1997, he was assistant director for Social and Behavioral Sciences (and Education) at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Earlier in his career, Chubin served on the faculty of four universities, including Georgia Institute of Technology. Since 1991, he has been an adjunct professor at the Cornell-in-Washington Program.
AAAS Youth Scientists Star at Beijing Fair
Nineteen top science students and four high school teachers in a AAAS delegation arrived in Beijing this month to find themselves at the center of a news media whirlwind. From the time the 3rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Youth Science Festival opened on 3 August until it closed on 9 August, newspaper and broadcast reporters expressed a keen interest in the American delegation. Students were quoted and photographed in stories in China Daily, Beijing Today, and Beijing Youth Daily. One was featured in a segment on CCTV, China's largest national television network.
But the interest was mutual. The Americans were surprised and fascinated by traditional Chinese medicine and by China's space program. And they bonded with their counterparts from China and around the Pacific Rim over concern about degradation of the global environment.
"Everyone is really starting to see the evidence of the greenhouse effect," said Liz Baker, 16, of Tucson, Arizona. "All of the kids I spoke to all seemed to feel that we need to stop what we're doing right nowstop pollution, stop destroying the forests."
Dong Zhengqi, a high school student from China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, shared that view. "The environment around us is becoming worse and worse, so my research is about the environment," Dong said in a 4 August interview with the English-language China Daily. "I'd like to convey my ideas to my counterparts from all over the world and get to know their ideas on environmental protection."
AAAS's International Office organized U.S. participation in the festival, supported by the National Science Foundation. The delegation was led by Yolanda George, AAAS's deputy director of Education and Human Resources, and Clinton Turner Jr., AAAS's project manager for Science NetLinks.
APEC is an organization of 21 Pacific Rim countries and economic jurisdictions working to encourage growth, trade, and investment in the region. The science festival had been scheduled for last summer, but it was postponed until the deadly SARS outbreak was brought under control.
Nearly 900 science students, most of them still in high school, and nearly 350 teachers, researchers, and officials came from around the Pacific Rim to attend the event, which was hosted by China's Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education, the China Association for Science and Technology, the Central Committee of the Chinese Youth League, and the city government of Beijing.
Three U.S students won top prizes in the Beijing competition: Vaishali Grover, 17, of Miami, Florida, took first place for developing a new marine paint with pineapple and papaya enzymes to replace the highly toxic paint now used to control the accumulation of marine organisms on ship hulls. Jeffrey Reitman and Sean Kshitij Mehra, both of Jericho, New York, shared a first-place award for nanotechnology research, including development of an industrial polymer to be used in lubricants for space machinery.
Adam Quade of Minnesota and Kels Phelps of Montana were second-place winners for their work on fluoride and tooth decay, and the medicinal value of the Yucca glauca plant, respectively.
"AAAS has a long history of cooperating with scientists in the Asia-Pacific region," said Shere Abbott, AAAS's chief international officer. "Providing an opportunity for the next generation of young scientists to understand the global culture of science and to build ties with their peers in these countries will strengthen international scientific cooperation in the region for years to come."
The same goal prompted NSF to underwrite the U.S. delegation to Beijing and to earlier APEC science festivals in South Korea and Singapore, said Frances Li, a senior staff associate in NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering.
"The festival meshes well with NSF's goal of fostering a diverse, globally oriented workforce of scientists and engineers," Li said. "NSF has funded AAAS to organize participation in the festival by a cross-section of bright students from around this country. NSF anticipates that as the alumni of these festivals mature into influential contributors to the science and engineering enterprise of the 21st century, the common bond of the festival experience will catalyze cooperative linkages around and across the Pacific Rim."
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